What's in a Name? A Visit to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery isn’t exactly off the beaten track.  It’s right next to the church of the same name, not far from Kingston Pike on Lyon’s View, just down the street from Cherokee Country Club.  You’ve probably driven by it hundreds of times, like I had before I finally decided to stop there one day.  That was a few years ago, before I was blogging my graveyard adventures.  So last weekend I went back.
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Some changes have taken place since my last visit here.  At that time a portion of the cemetery was completely overgrown.  And I don’t mean with weeds.  There was a small forest on one side that had grown right up around the graves!  But that’s gone now.  The photo below shows part of the formerly overgrown area.  Some of the part I didn’t photograph has been planted with new grass.
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There’s more evidence of sprucing up going on, such as the replacement/repair of the chain link fence around the property:
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Of course there is still room for improvement . . .
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But I’m not going to complain since the hole in the fence led to another adventure.  If you are familiar with the area you will know what is right next door, behind a high stone wall.  Well, below is a photo of the INSIDE of that wall and  a couple more (quickly snapped) shots of what lies within.
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After experiencing that little thrill, I went back to the graveyard and explored some more.  This graveyard is quite old.  Although the plaque on the church above indicates that this new building replaced another built in 1887, other internet resources indicate that the church opened in 1870.  Yet the earliest interments were in 1858.  The majority of the burials took place in the first three decades of the last century.  There are a few as late as the 1970s, but I saw no recent burials.
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Of course, there were little ones.
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One of the interesting things about visiting local cemeteries is the fun of seeing familiar names, and realizing that the roads you’ve traveled your whole life, for example, are named after actual people, people who owned the land once upon a time, and here they are!  But the roads in nearby Sequoyah Hills are not named after the residents of this cemetery.
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery is an African-American graveyard, and many of the people buried here were born into slavery and freed by the war.  Their hard work for the most part was not rewarded by having local roads named after them.    I could not find the reference but I seem to recall having read that many of the people buried here worked at what was then known as the insane asylum, just down the road.  This was partly confirmed by a blog post I found while researching the stones below:
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I was interested in these stones because of the unusual names, which I also thought would be easier to research because they were uncommon, and also because of Mr. Crump’s military service.  I learned from his great-great-granddaughter’s blog post that Mr. Crump, born the slave of Martha Crump in West Tennessee, fought in the Union Army.  He bought property in Knoxville and raised a family here, with both his son and grandson working as bakers at what we now remember as Lakeshore.  She writes that “Lavon Crump [her grandfather] often repeated to his children the importance of a good family name . . . [when] he retired [after 50 years of service] he brought home a gold stick pin and his parking sign from the Hospital lot, it read: Honorable Lavon Crump. His placement of the sign at the corner of his yard was another expression of his pride.” Her mother, she says, stressed the importance of “[h]ow we transformed a slave brand into a meaningful family name.”
Names are important.  Remembering people is important.  Sometimes a grave marker is the only hard evidence that a person existed.  And that’s one reason I visit graveyards.
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A Churchyard Without a Church: Branch Hill Cemetery

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As I did last week, I asked Siri for advice on a nearby cemetery to visit, and she directed me to Branch Hill, just off the Pellissippi Parkway in the Solway community.  In fact, this graveyard shares a parking lot with Solway Park (a place I’ve heard is a bit sketchy, but it was broad daylight so I didn’t let that deter me!).
When a cemetery is named for a church, you expect to see a church.  But just like last week’s Lebanon Cemetery, this one is an orphan, its church building having been destroyed and its members dispersed some time after 1941.  The reason that’s all I can tell you is that Branch Hill is named in a document online listing active Methodist congregations that was published in 1941!
This charming cemetery, with first burials in the early 1900s, is still in active use, from what I can tell as a resting place for family members and possibly former members of the defunct congregation.  There have been several burials in this century, and moreover, the older graves are still being visited.
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The Walker name predominates here, with a healthy dose of Hardins and a scattering of Rathers and Sharps, among others.
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There are many babies and young children remembered here.  Note the stones marking two losses in one family.  I can’t imagine the sorrow of these parents.
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A sampling of other interesting stones includes . . .
These hand-carved stones, one for a recent interment of a lady who died at the age of 101:
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This stone for two brothers, something I don’t remember ever seeing before:
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And this one of a young physician:
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Why is that so interesting?  Well, because my research indicates that Branch Hill is an historically African-American cemetery.  I’m pretty sure it was unusual for a young black man to be a doctor in 1907.  I’ve tried to find out more about Dr. McCamey, and about the African-American community in Solway 100 years ago, but have come up empty so far.  As always, I’m hoping local readers may know more.
Unlike many orphaned cemeteries, this one is well maintained.  Even the broken bits of stones were arranged neatly:
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I should thank Siri for directing me to this cemetery, which I would never have discovered on my own.  Next time you are speeding down the Pellissippi Parkway toward Oak Ridge, take a left onto George Light Road and experience a little history.
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Coming up next:  Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Lyons View Drive.